Part A of A and B
I’m picking up Lizzy’s slack. Totally kidding. We have been doing a lot, and having a lot of things happen to us this past week or two. The result has been a lot to remember and little time to write…and new friends!
We woke up in the baseball dugout in Wardensville, VA, and tried to convince the 7-11 employees down the street to let us use their restroom. It was working the night before and the night shift let us use it even though it wasn’t technically a public restroom, so when they refused us in the morning I thought it was due to our haphazard and bug eyed appearance. Turns out, they actually were having plumbing issues and sent us down the road to a little 24/7 laundromat. To our delight and amazement, it had desks and free wifi! Of course, we stayed for hours but somehow it didn’t occur to either of us to actually do our laundry which had been wadded up in steamy plastic bags in our panniers. It is hot and damp out here. Let’s just say the result is less than fresh.
We left having cought up on our business end of things: emails, route files, Watsi things, trying to convince people to joint our Watsi team (click here) etc. The sky that morning was threatening, and it was quite noticeably cooler when we left Wardensville. This was a relief, but we both knew what it meant–an impending downpour. There are a few skills we’ve acquired on this adventure and predicting weather is one of them. We made it as far as the next town which was a good 25 miles away and over a mountain before we finally gave in to the chilly drizzle and made for a wayside McDonald’s to continue our work. We weren’t feeling particularly motivated that day if you can’t tell. As we got back on the bikes to ride out to Petersburg we both commented on how the weather was feeling like fall at home in Oregon.
Fall in Oregon is fantastic, it’s like a second spring. Everything turns green and wet again after a dry summer. There are also loads of apples, pears, walnuts, and pumpkins to be had along with their corresponding baked goods. Lizzy and I talked a good hour about all the different types of cookies my momma makes for her famous Christmas platters, but alas, it is only mid August.
We made it to Petersburg and the rain started up again, so we decided that we weren’t going to get our full miles in and were going to spend the night in a high class dugout we could see from the covered overhang at the Dollar General across the street. It was a good night.
It was a good thing that we slept so well because the next day was a doozy. We stopped at a McDonalds across the street to load up on coffee and use the Internet, leaving just as both a troop of Boy Scouts came in for breakfast and a torrential downpour opened up outside. It was that kind of a day. We rode through the rain to Seneca Rocks and ate lunch at a rock climbers’ post/general store, and then hopped back on the road. I was really excited because I knew that we were getting close to the Green Brier River Trailhead. This trail follows an old rail line so it manages to wind through some remote places in the mountains at a mere 1% grade. It is gravel though, so I was a little wary of the trail surface since it had been raining for so long.
At a critical junction, I double checked the map and headed up a mountain. A real mountain too, miles of 7% through low hanging clouds and twisty-turny curves. We caught up to each other at the top, congratulating each other on our success, and the went down. Five miles of foggy, twisty-turny, 7% etc. We made it to a town, 13 miles from our initial turn. Then I realized–we were in the wrong state.
I was none to pleased when I discovered my mistake on the back end of said mountain with no where to go, no idea what road to take as I was unwilling to ride back up and over that mountain, and utterly frustrated. To top it off it was raining again and everything we had was dampish and smelly. I tried to stop at a library to look up some directions but I got to the library with only a half hour to closing and extremely slow internet. Both added to my increasing anxiety and frustration. I decided that we should just hit the road that I knew would lead us more or less in the right direction and worry about correcting my mistake later. I also made the decision to eat the candy that Donna sent us. Thank you Donna, I really needed a PayDay right then.
The Appellations are very steep, but have deep valleys that run North and South. If you are following one of the valleys the roads are kind to you, but anytime you have to go East or West you must cross an excruciatingly steep ridge, like we did going over the Judy Gap.
We followed one of these valleys into the deepening afternoon, knowing that it would be difficult to find a place to camp where we wouldn’t have to worry about being attacked by hill people dogs or shot at, and we knew that we were miles from any sort of settlement. For about an hour that ride I was fighting with myself. I was frustrated that a silly thing like taking a wrong turn could get me so worked up and my mind started buzzing through every mistake I have ever made… Yatta yatta, you know how that goes.
I said a little prayer, and at the very moment that I decided not to worry, an old man pulled over in a pickup and offered us one of his many cabins to sleep in that night. Furthermore, his home was right exactly where we needed to go and exactly the miles that we needed too.
We made it to his house and it was… well, memorable. I quite enjoyed it. He is a tire salesman/bluegrass musician. He has a pond full up trout in his back porch and he offered us a club so that we could get our own trout for dinner if we wanted. He fed us some really great tasting, but expired Costco foods (I’m never one to trust an expiration date anyway) and then threw our bikes in the back of his truck to take us to the cabin. As he drove, he explained he was taking us to a different cabin, one that had running water though no electricity, since some people had died in his other cabin that he had previously offered us… When we got to our home, he explained that the bears sometimes fall through the roof and that there are rattlesnakes living in the woodpile–“I killed a 51 incher last month”–but not to worry as there was a troop of hunters in the woods behind the house that were training their bear dogs. They would be stopping by later to check that we hadn’t exploded since the house lights and water heater were run on gas…
It was fabulous, absolutely fantastic! We couldn’t have invented a better place to stay that night. The hunters did stop by around 10 and were very kind. One keep trying to give us all of his flashlights and they made sure that we were quite safe and comfortable before heading out. I set up my hammock on the back porch and watched the stars until the clouds came and covered them up. It was absolutely silent and perfect out there.
Ray come by in the morning and gave us a florescent safety vest and chocolate. What a guy! His grandson William came by too and offered to take us on a tour through the Carr lands. We hopped at the opportunity and had a great time bumbling around Carr mountain in a real live vehicle. William took us up to an overlook and showed us the adjacent mountain range called the Devil’s Backbone. When we got back to the cabin, we cleaned up, finished coffee, and I got some pictures of some beautiful butterflies that are common out here.
We left the Carrs’ around one or so, and made it seven miles before the sky opened up again. We were fortunately at a gas station, so we had a little bit of an overhang to shelter us from the ferocious downpour. Some motorcyclists stopped there to hide from the rain as well and struck up a conversation with Lizzy, then invited her to join them for drinks. I said I’d be over in a bit and called my momma.
When I got off the phone the rain had subsided so I went across the block to collect my friend. We took off toward Hot Springs. I was still a bit uncertain about how we we going to get to Kentucky since we were well off course at this point and I was hoping for a good sized town with a McDonalds, though preferably a library. I should have expected that Hot Springs would be a golf town since we were following the Sam Snead memorial highway, but it still startled me when we rolled out of our West Virginia cabin morning into pleated white pants and crispy collard polo Hot Springs, VA. I knew that we wouldn’t be welcome to sneaky camp there, so we opted to eat bean-on-bean burritos in the Subway outdoor seating area before climbing out of Hot Springs in hopes of finding a dry-ish wayside or church parking lot to sleep in.
We didn’t make it too far before we spotted a large Presbyterian church with an ample parking lot out back. Since it was still waking hours, we decided to circle the church and ask permission from someone. We walked right into Pastor Scott, who refused our request to pop up a tent in the parking lot and instead opened up the auxiliary building which had fluffy carpet, power outlets and bathrooms!! Virginians have been good to us!
We left early that morning, still trying to regain our lost miles acquired from my navigational error and literally rode all day. We were in the total boon docks at this point. No surviving towns. No cell service. We were on a nicely paved, single lane road complete with steep, heart stopping grades, bug-eyed dogs (crazed beagley-looking things, pitt bulls, several Pyrenees etc.)
It was absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t manage to get any pictures because I was too busy gawking at everything, and I don’t think pictures would do it justice anyways. We had been planning at stoping at the town marked Zenith on the map, but when we got there we discovered that Zenith has been long defunct. I was disappointed, but not completely suprised, so we rode on. Up and over an extremely steep eye boggling, knee straining grade, down the other side, past a lone motorcyclist, and then down to a junction called Rock Camp. To my satisfaction, I espied a beautiful church pavilion and made straight toward it.
We weren’t sure what the next day would bring, we only knew that we were safe and comfortable once again (three cheers for Virginia!) and that we really needed to use the Internet. It is absolutely beautiful in these parts, but in order to survive it you have to be as tough as the landscape around you. We can tell that quality in the people we have met in the Virginias. Along with that toughness however, is a overwhelming recognition of humanity and hardship, kindness and generosity. Just like the mountains surrounding us that maybe even get me a little claustrophobic, the first experience of boon dock Virginias was a little intimidating, but now we know better. The are deep valleys of goodness here, and I will write more about that in part B of this week’s blog.
Until then, thanks again everyone for all of your support. My chronic homesickness is flaring up again when I think of all of you at home, but it is good to know that this country is our home too. Everyday we have an amazing opportunity to meet new people to add to our growing list of friends and family. It certainly helps to think of that as we start each day’s ride.
If you haven’t joined our team yet, please do! You can see the faces and read the stories about everyone who’s medical treatment has been funded with WBD Team contributions.
Thanks again, Stink out